Rob Wilkin finished Saturday strong.
If he finishes the Tom Watson Challenge in similar fashion Sunday, he could win the event for the first time.
Wilkin, the head professional at Heritage Park Golf Course who began the day with a 4-stroke lead, salvaged his second round at Hallbrook Country Club with two birdie putts on the final five holes. He enters Sunday’s final round with a 1-stroke lead over Watson.
“My putting saved me a little bit. I feel like I was out of control a little bit right off the bat and got it back,” said Wilkin, who shot 2-over par 74 Saturday and is at 3-under 141 for the tournament. “I’ve got a nice rhythm going on the putter and I like these greens.”
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Watson shot 1-under for the second consecutive day. He entered the last three holes 5-under for the tournament, but bogeyed 16 and found the creek on 18, recording a double bogey.
“I had a good day up until the last three holes and somehow the wheels fell off,” said Watson. “You don’t combine a bad shot with another bad shot and that’s what I did on the 18th hole. It’s not the way you want to finish. It makes the (post-round meal) not taste quite as good.”
Two local players enter Sunday tied for third. Travis Mays, who played for Blue Valley Southwest and just finished his collegiate career at Central Missouri, and Chase Hanna, a current member of the Kansas golf team who graduated from Shawnee Mission East, are both at 1-under 143.
The course lived up to its reputation as one of the more difficult ones in the metropolitan area Saturday. Only three other golfers in addition to Watson — Mays, Alex Higgs and Bryan Norton — shot under par on the day. All four shot 1-under 71.
“This golf course is not easy. And with the wind coming up, it was a real challenge today,” Watson said. “There’s a lot of penalty shots on the course – I found one the last hole. It’s not a course you go through 54 holes and at least not come close to penalties.”
Though Wilkin enters the final round with a lead, he knows that whoever plays the best golf on Sunday will takes home the titles.
“I need to get back on track Sunday,” he said. “Tom gave a few back coming in today, but you know he’ll be back on his game the final round. So far this year I’ve been playing really well and hopefully that continues Sunday.”